The first winning season for the Washington Huskies football team in eight years also meant the first new contract for a sitting UW football coach in eight years.
The school announced Friday that Steve Sarkisian had agreed to a five-year contract that will pay him a guaranteed $2.25 million in 2011, rising to $2.85 million in 2015. Sarkisian would have made a guaranteed $2 million in 2011 under the terms of his old deal, rising to $2.3 million in 2013, with the new contract adding two years.
It’s the first time UW has given an existing coach a new contract since Rick Neuheisel in 2002 during the team’s 7-6 season. That was Washington’s last winning record until this year, when the Huskies also went 7-6, capped by a 19-7 win over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. In the interim, UW had nothing but non-winning seasons, firing Neuheisel, Keith Gilbertson and Tyrone Willingham.
But Washington’s four-game winning streak to end 2010 gave further evidence to Huskies athletic director Scott Woodward that he had chosen the right man to replace Willingham in 2008.
Woodward said he wasn’t worried that Sarkisian would leave for another job. But he said it was a part of Sarkisian’s contract that his deal would be reviewed after 24 months, and the extension came as a result.
“It was the right thing to do because we need to keep pace with the market and we want Steve here for a long time,” Woodward told The Times.
Washington is 12-13 in two seasons under Sarkisian and 9-9 in conference play, finishing in a tie for third place last year. The announcement came the day the Huskies began hosting at least six recruits for visits, with signing day less than two weeks away. It’s often thought that it helps in recruiting for coaches to have at least four years on their current deals to be able to tell recruits they will be the coach for the length of their college careers.
“It gets the recruits’ attention that we are committed (to Sarkisian) and headed in the right direction,” Woodward said.
The contract ensures that Sarkisian will remain the highest-paid public employee in the state (by contrast, interim UW president Phyllis Wise is due to make $621,000 this year).
It also keeps him among the upper echelon among Pac-12 coaches with only USC’s Lane Kiffin (thought to make roughly $4 million a year) and Oregon’s Chip Kelly (who recently signed a new deal paying $20.5 million over six years) making more. California’s Jeff Tedford has a contract similar to Sarkisian’s, earning $2.3 million in 2010.
The contract also includes incentives, such as $25,000 if UW wins seven games in 2011, up to a maximum of $150,000 for winning 12 games. Sarkisian can also get $50,000 if UW advances to the Pac-12 title game next season, and $150,000 if UW makes it to a bowl game (which was also in his original contract).
Sarkisian, 36, also has some academic incentives, notably receiving $50,000 to $125,000 for graduation success rates from 70 percent to above 80 percent and another $50,000 to $125,000 for improved academic progress rates.
Buyout terms were also altered a bit in Sarkisian’s favor. He will get 70 percent of all remaining guaranteed money if he is fired (up from 60 percent in the original deal). If Sarkisian leaves UW before the contract expires, he would owe $2.5 million if he left in year one or two, $1.5 million if he left in year three and $1 million if he left in year four or five.
Previously, Sarkisian had to pay $3 million if he left in the first year, $2.5 million in the second and $1.5 million in the third.
Woodward said he also expects all nine of UW’s football assistants to return next season, with work ongoing on those whose contracts ran out. Most were on two-year deals that began in 2009; defensive coordinator Nick Holt has a contract through 2012, and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier through 2011.
• Washington received a commitment from receiver/defensive back Marvin Hall of Dorsey High in Los Angeles and also got word that cornerback Kameron Jackson of Long Beach Poly will stick with his earlier commitment to UW after having said a few weeks ago he would consider other schools.